“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime. And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.” -Kahlil Gibran
Silence is the primordial language of nature. It is eternal, it is ancient, it is all pervasive. Its soundless tongue blossoms forth with the nectarous truths of infinity. The deeper we delve into silence, the closer we come to Sat Chit Ananda, or truth consciousness bliss which is the absolute nature of our being. Sat means truth, existence, or the pure beingness which always remains regardless of external situations. Through silence we can open ourselves to the truth which is ever present within. We can go beyond the useless talks of the mind and the worldly communication many of us engage in rather unconsciously on a daily basis. We can return to the breath and become grounded in deep awareness of the present moment. Chit means consciousness and is the first manifestation of our true nature. When consciousness becomes aware of itself every being becomes a mirror of the absolute within and without. Pure being and consciousness are ever present but they may not be recognized because of the distractions caused by the mind and ego. Silence allows one to obtain direct awareness of this divine presence. It helps to reveal this pure reflection by extinguishing the movements of mind which constantly create dualism and judgement. Ananda means bliss. This bliss is our birth right, it is our natural state of being which is inherently present within us always.
Total silence is referred to by great yogis as Maun. It is one of the most powerful tools for communicating with ones higher self/inner nature. There are four levels of Maun; Maun of the mouth, Maun of the Mind, Maun of the eyes and Maun of the ears. Maun of the mouth means no external speaking. Maun of the mind means no internal speaking. Maun of the eyes means that you are not reacting internally to external visual stimuli. Maun of the ears means you are not reacting to external auditorial stimuli. This complete silence is referred to in Patanjalis eight limbs of yoga as Pratyahara. In sutra 54 of chapter 2 in Patanjalis yoga sutras it states;
Svavisaya-asamprayoge cittasya svarupanukara-iv-endriyanam pratyaharah.
According to Dr. Omanand ,”the fifth limb of yoga is pratyahara which means return back to inside. Mind is withdrawn from senses. Pratyahara happens when the senses withdraw from external objects and thus (chitta) becomes similar to true nature.”
Silence allows one to withdrawal from external objects and thus return to the river of eternal truth flowing within. Pratyahara has often been compared to a turtle receding into its shell. The shell represents the mind and the limbs are ones senses. Silence helps one to go deeper into a place within that is beyond the external reality which is ruled and known by the senses.
Over the past four months of living in ashrams around India I have learned very important lessons about silence which have helped to decondition my societal programming around the subject. For much of my life I have been taught that extroversion is good and desirable. I remember being chastised for being “to silent” as an adolescent and from a early aged forced myself to engage in talking even when it felt unnatural. In the west silence is often associated with awkwardness, shyness or mental illness. Silence is something people like to avoid. In the average western household people usually have multiple televisions playing at once as well as music, usually while talking on the phone and texting on the internet all at the same time. It is considered undesirable to share a space of silence during any type of human interaction. During a conversation if silence occurs it is referred to as an “awkward pause”. I believe this comes from a deep rooted fear westerners carry of being in each others pure presence without any wordily worldly separations. People in the west often use words to fulfill the selfish needs of their ego. Weather this is to belittle others through gossip, prove ones intelligence or create a image of ones self, words are one of the main sources of food for the delusional ego based consciousness. Words are selfish in the way that they are full of self, full of individual based consciousness. Silence is selfless, it connects us to a shared sense of being. Silence helps to extinguish the ego and all movements of the mind. It deconstructs our personality and returns us to the essence of our being.
Despite all of this discourse I do not believe that conversations and words are bad. In fact nothing in this world is purely good or bad. What I am saying is that external communication is often favored over internal communication and this has created deep problems within peoples psyches and western society as a whole. Words are a tool and we can use them to build bridges or burn them. We can engage in gossip or we can learn about the different perspectives each of us hold and through communication we can develop a deeper understanding and respect for one another. We can use words to hurt each other and stratify our ego or we can use them to heal each other and let others know how much they are loved. We can converse in order to create a impression of our false egos on others or we can use them to come into a deeper vulnerability with the external world. We can use words to immerse ourselves deeper in materialistic delusion or we can use words go pray and remember god. Ultimately I believe that silence and talking must be in balance for proper spiritual practice to take place.
My understanding of proper spiritual use of silence came to me when I first arrived at the last ashram I was at in Kerala. My roommates held a strict space of silence in the room I moved into. At first I did not know what was happening and thought that maybe they just didn’t like me or want a new roomate. After I wrote one of my roommates a note she explained to me in note form that they held silence in the room because they both needed peace after working in the loud and busy ashram all day. Later me and my roommates began to talk occasionally and we actually all became close friends through those interactions. All the while we would hold spaces of silence for each other and had a very balanced relationship living as three humans in a very small room. My roomate who became my closest friend at the ashram was named Emi. She taught me about the importance of solitude and silence. She told me that if we could not be satisfied in our solitude we could not be satisfied with our relationships with others. She also taught me that through silence we could actually connect to people in more deep and meaningful ways as well as purify our hearts and minds. When I began to hold spaces of silence for myself I found it quite difficult. I remember the first day I attempted to be in silence more people tried to talk to me at the ashram then ever before. I felt a little depressed that day because I do love connecting with people but later in the evening I danced those emotions away and felt a space of deep clarity and peace open up within me. Later I had other challenges in being silent when I moved in with my partner at the ashram. When I would be in silence or he would be in silence it would actually really annoy me because it would make me feel disconnected with him. But this practice taught me how to respect him as well as myself in a more authentic way and actually made our habitation together very symbiotic. At Paramanand ashram being in silence has been less of a issue but is still challenging at times. When I am in silence and people talk to me sometimes I just unconsciously automatically respond. I think its hard for people who don’t practice being silent to understand how to interact/not interact with those who are practicing silence. Often I will be wearing my “in silence” tag and people will acknowledge it yet still continue to talk to me even though I will not be able to respond. These challenges bring me deeper into my practice. They allow me to see where my mind is stuck and my samskaras become more clear to me.
The fruits of my practice of being silent have blossomed to me in the form of a more clear mind. After being silent for 2 to 4 hours per day I can meditate much easier and seem to have less unnecessary thoughts. My throat chakra actually feels more clear and able to communicate my truths. I feel more present with people and more grounded in myself. When I am holding my space of silence I am able to process the emotions that I may have previously been ignoring or covering up. I am able to listen deeply to myself and the world around me. Being silent in nature is a beautiful thing because when you are truly present with the earth you can very clearly hear god speaking to you. The songs of the birds, bugs, wind, ocean and rain all seem to be transmitting some message from the heart of the divine. Silence has opened up a space of unconditional self acceptance and love within myself. I no longer reject my tendency to want/need silence. I no longer think its a bad thing to not want to interact or talk all the time. Holding a space of silence makes me feel closer to my true self then ever before. It dismantles my ego and forces me to stand vulnerably and authentically in the light of my true presence and inner energies. Silence has led me from the unreal to the real and from the darkness to the light. Going inwards allows me to enter into the spaciousness within my being and detach from the material world. The more I practice silence the more I tune into the spiritual world within my heart.